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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
no spirit dares stir
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1852  Wednesday, 24 September 2003

[1]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 05:33:55 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1843 no spirit dares stir

[2]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 12:52:18 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1843 no spirit dares stir


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 05:33:55 -0700
Subject: 14.1843 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1843 no spirit dares stir

Bill Arnold writes:

>OK: here's the opening scene, in a nutshell, no Claudius, no Gertrude,
>just some guards in the dark, on the castle wall, and a "spirit" which
>"dares stir" and Hamlet, for whom the play is named, is invoked, to an
>audience, chilled to the bone at this chilling opening, to set the world
>right, again, at the anniversary of the birth of the "Saviour" of them
>all, agreed?  Quite English, wouldn't you agree?:

Quite English except for those pesky names. It's always been an enigma
to me, why aren't the sentinels Bernard and Francis?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 12:52:18 -0400
Subject: 14.1843 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1843 no spirit dares stir

Bill Arnold posits " the opening scene. . . on the castle wall . . ., to
set the world right, again, at the anniversary of the birth of the
"Saviour" of them all, agreed? "

Not at all.  Perhaps Bill's "castle wall" for a "platform" is a quibble,
although I think it is a significant point, but let's be clear that the
spirit DOES stir, and the world ISN'T set right in the play (nor to this
day).  It is NOT the season when "no spirit dares stir;" when the "bird
of dawning singeth all night long," but some other time, when the cock
remains conventionally silent until first light and Horatio is invited
to be in attendance precisely in the expectation that the spirit in
question, the old king's ghost, will indeed stir and reappear to them
all.

It may be wintry cold, but the references all point out the contrast to,
not the identity with, Christmas day as the time of the play's opening.
Bad or dangerous things can happen, and are about to, and that is the
point of the time being not "so hallowed and so gracious" a time as
Christmas.  The ghost, whose earthly visit is governed by the usual
rules that limit the time it can stay and what it can disclose, is not
in violation of any special Christmas sanctity, nor even any folkloric
expectations.  Nothing in the script helps us to test the
religious/spiritual quality of the moment.

On the contrary, the occasion reminds Horatio more of the portentous
violation of natural laws that accompanied the political disorder
centering around the lawless (I'm not saying morally wrong, or making
any judgment on Brutus, pro or con, nor Caesar nor Antony neither;
please let's not go there) killing of Julius Caesar.  Since Claudius and
Hamlet are each to be regicides (and at least one a tyrannicide),
Horatio's imagination seems to be right on target, and to provide the
better image to bear in mind.

Tony

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